The West Wing characters: Leo McGarry
“This guy’s walkin’ down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole; can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey, Joe, it’s me. Can ya help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are ya stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.” As long as I got a job, you got a job, you understand?”
Firstly, I must pull myself together long enough to articulate my feelings about Leo Thomas McGarry. What a guy. I can’t imagine Leo played by any other person but John Spencer. He was the backbone of the show, managing the emotions of the President while keeping the staff in check, even in the most dramatic of circumstances. His relationships with the President, Josh and Margaret were my personal favourites, exploring the depths of John Spencer’s talents week in, week out. One of my favourite moments, within the very Leo-centric episode Bartlet For America, is when he very quietly utters “I love him so much” in reference to Jed. It just runs so deep, with Jed and Leo. Years of watching John and Martin play off each other so beautifully is the very reason that the Election Day scene in which CJ informs the President that Leo is dead is absolutely devastating.
I have managed to compartmentalize the show a little bit, so as to not be overwhelmed by melancholy when trying to appreciate Leo’s humorous moments. Whether it’s total crackpot day or Leo versus Lord John Marbury, he’s forever wonderful. There are so many dialogues I could pick to exemplify the reasons why Leo is my hero as much as Josh’s, but none more than the above quote. From talking about his alcohol addiction to Ainsley Hayes or Paris Gellar, or time after time proving his loyalty to President Bartlet, Leo is a pillar of strength - to everyone. I’m not astrological, but never have I been more proud to be a Leo than while watching McGarry do his thing. It always reminds me of the lion in The Wizard of Oz. I think of his walk down the yellow brick road as his path to sobriety, and his path to Jed Bartlet’s campaign. From that point, Leo is utterly filled with courage - to overcome the countless challenges laid before him.
He’s the best. And, so much of the greatness in the other characters through the series can be attributed to their having known him. Thanks, boss.